Exotic Wines for 2010!
Most wine connoisseurs and just regular wine lovers agree, the best way to learn about wine is by drinking it! Lately, I found myself obsessed with sampling unique wines from exotic places. I do still totally love the classics from regions like Bordeaux or Burgundy in France, Tuscany in Italy or Napa in California. Can you guess that I am a red wine lover (I have a weakness for bold cabernets)! I can always appreciate a good white (not to mention Champagne which totally gets me head-over-heels). Since we are just starting a new year, I thought it’d be fun to mention some cool and unique wines from remote places that people can try for a change. You can make it a goal to sample something new and exotic once a month, while still enjoying your favorite wines.
First of all, how about some Middle Eastern selections? You weren’t expecting that! Did you know that the first wine ever produced comes from that side of the world? Iran and Egypt first created wine, and we are talking 6,000 BC!! Fast forwarding a few thousand years, I have discovered some very mysterious wines from Lebanon, which are spicy and enticing, like Château Ksara 2001, a Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot blend or the complex and rich Château Kefraya 2001 which mixes Cabernet, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre, both of these Lebanese gems go very well with a beef stew or with kafta kebab and grilled vegetables. I also am really into an Israeli wine, the delicious 2003 Red Wine Yatir Forest. Archaeologists have actually found some artifacts in the area that trace wine production back some 2,500 years! Also from Israel, a decadent and luxurious dessert wine from the Golan Heights Winery: the 2005 Gewürztraminer Heights Wine Harvest (Yarden) will please even the most demanding palate (and makes a fabulous combination when paired with cheese)!
If you are craving a white wine that is sweet and delicious, I recommend the 2008 Apátsági Pannonhalmi Tricollis from Hungary -- an exotic and accomplished blend of three grapes, Welschriesling, Riesling and Gewürztraminer (try it with warm apple tart, this will be to die for). If your taste runs to something dryer, crisper and refreshing, check out a fabulous Croatian 2008 Toljanić Žlahtina Krk (this one goes amazingly well with a good foie gras). There is a lot of gossip among those who truly know wine that the Central Europe Region is going to be the next big thing. Except for the most edgy wine experts, this area is totally undiscovered, underrated and underappreciated now, but within the next five years, many good wines from Central Europe will steal the scene! Remember you heard it here first. Be a pioneer now! Although the sweet Hungarian wines have been on the radar for a while, the Croatian and Slovenian ones are still rare commodities. Try them now, and if you like them, buy a case, or two!
If you are in the mood for something big and powerful, let’s look at South Africa, which I so am addicted to! The 2006 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Franschhoek is impressive, smoky and strong and can be absolutely divine if enjoyed with duck no matter the preparation whereas the Meerlust Rubicon 2001 is an intense and youthful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with cassis, black cherry and blackcurrant on the nose pair this with mushroom risotto or a grilled rack of lamb. This is a good thing! I had the wonderful opportunity to visit these wineries a few years ago, and was taken by the natural beauty of the vineyard and the fascinating Cape Dutch architecture (very unique style of South Africa). The winemakers were very dedicated to a superior product and experience, and made our visit a complete delight. I want to go back again so badly. For something not as robust, but still exciting and full of flavor, I can only think of New Zealand’s Felton Road 2007 Pinot Noir, velvety and spicy at the same time. A true gem! Serve this one with hors d’oeuvres (particularly those made with salmon) for a great start. Although Felton Roads doesn’t come cheaply, they are still competitive in the marketplace and can beat a bunch of well-established Pinots that I have tried throughout the years.
I don’t think wine can get more exotic than this. These are finds that will definitely augment your wine repertoire and will inspire you to try something new and off the beaten-path. Some of the wines that I mention here come from wineries that are really established (although remote and not that promoted in the U.S.) but I can always find them for you. I admire all of these wines and feel certain that any one of them will add variety and a sense of adventure to your cellar, your dinner table or cocktail hour. And, they will help you appraise classic wine from a different perspective. So go ahead, have fun with these or let me know if you want to take bigger risks, I’m happy to show you how!